Candidates of the Republican Party have a golden opportunity to take charge of the climate debate, and they can do so by adopting a platform that is true to GOP principles that protects the environment. The opportunity for Republicans to lead the environmental debate is courtesy of the freshman U.S. congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose Green New Deal landed with a thud several months ago when she introduced her radical, wide-ranging, costly and unrealistic plan.

Even some Democrats were shocked — and maybe a bit embarrassed — by the multi-trillion-dollar ideas Ocasio-Cortez tossed out. Among the ideas: Reduce greenhouse gases by eliminating cattle ranching. That idea blamed cattle for releasing methane as they digest their feed, but Americans aren’t thrilled about getting rid of cattle. We Americans love hamburgers, after all, and we Nebraskans cannot imagine our state without its cattle ranching industry, a key cog in our state’s economy.

While stunned Americans scratch their heads and wonder how the Green New Deal was ever let out of the bag, Republicans have a chance to seize the moment and the leadership on climate change.

Americans don’t want far-fetched, costly plans to protect the environment. We want something simple that we can afford and doesn’t bloat our bureaucracy.

What we want is a plan that encourages corporations to reduce greenhouse emissions while consumers are provided financial help to absorb higher costs of goods and services passed along as businesses implement emissions reduction strategies.

The idea that’s worth the GOP’s consideration is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a strategy devised by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act policy puts a fee on fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas. The fee starts low, but as it grows it encourages energy companies, industries and consumers to move toward cleaner, less expensive greenhouse gas strategies.

Fees collected on fossil fuels are allocated in equal shares to the American people to spend as they wish. Some may use the dividend to offset higher costs of switching to greener technologies.

Republicans should look hard at the Carbon Dividend Act. It encourages private industry to solve the pollution problem, and none of the fees go to the government.